[author: Adrian Miedema]
We recently reported that Metron Construction had pleaded guilty to criminal negligence in respect of the Christmas Eve 2009 deaths of four workers who fell 13 floors when a suspended work platform collapsed.
On Friday, July 13th, the court imposed a historic fine of $200,000 on Metron Construction in relation to that guilty plea. The prosecutor had requested a fine of $1 million against Metron.
The court also imposed a fine of $90,000 on Joel Schwartz, an owner of Metron Construction, for four offences under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. The fine against Schwartz is 90% of the maximum fine for individuals.
A Victim Fine Surcharge was added to all fines.
According to the Toronto Star, the judge said that the combined fines totaled more than “three times the net earnings of the business in its last profitable year.”
The Ontario Ministry of Labour, in its press release, notes that:
“A Ministry of Labour investigation found that the deceased workers had not been properly tied off to a lifeline, and had not been properly trained in the use of fall protection. The swing stage had been overloaded and it was later determined to be defective and hazardous.”
The Toronto Star reported that Metron Construction admitted, in an agreed statement of facts put before the court, that the site supervisor, who was one of the four workers who died, had directed the workers to the scaffold knowing that only two lifelines were available; that the site supervisor permitted employees under the influence of drugs to work on the project; that toxicology analysis showed that three of the four workers who died, including the site supervisor, had marijuana in their systems from recent ingestion; and that the scaffold was improperly designed and had defective welding.
The Toronto Star also reported that the fines met with “outrage” from the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour. Union leaders have been calling for stronger enforcement of criminal safety provisions that came into force in 2004 under what is known as Bill C-45.
The Ministry of Labour notes that other defendants facing charges stemming from this incident are still before the court.
The Ontario Ministry of Labour’s press release can be accessed here.